Rent arrears

Paying your rent should be a top priority because rent arrears can result in eviction and homelessness. If you have problems paying your rent you should contact your landlord as soon as possible and try to reach an agreement. Explain your circumstances, for example, that you are waiting for the council to process your housing benefit claim.
Dealing with rent arrears
Do not wait until you arrears have built up to approach your landlord and do no try to hide. If you do not reach an agreement with your landlord, you could be evicted from your home.
Keep paying your rent and contact the landlord with your income and expenditure sheet. Ask them to accept an extra payment on top of your rent to repay the arrears and start making payments as soon as you can.
The type of tenancy you have can influence your situation. You can be evicted more easily if you have an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord.
If you rent from a social landlord such as a local authority or housing association, they will have a policy regarding rent arrears. Make sure you get a copy of their policy before making a repayment offer. They should accept any reasonable offer.
It’s not advisable to withhold rent because the landlord has not carried out repairs to the property. Your landlord can still take you to court and get you evicted.
You may consider reducing payments to other non-priority creditors such as credit cards or loans, or even stopping them altogether. Your rent should come first.
Communication with your landlord
Do no ignore letters and phone calls! Always respond to your landlord’s letters or phone calls regarding rent arrears.

Your landlord may prefer to keep you on as a tenant if the payment problems can be sorted out, as finding a new tenant can be costly and time consuming for them.

If you reach an agreement with your landlord with regards to repayment of the arrears, get it confirmed in writing to avoid confusion.

It may be possible to come to an agreement with your landlord to pay a certain amount each week or month off the arrears you have built up.

Agree on an amount you can realistically afford. It is better to make small regular payments than to miss payments because you can’t afford to pay that week or month.

If receive Housing Benefit, you can ask the council to pay it directly to your landlord. This may make your landlord more willing to agree to an arrangement with you, as they will be sure of getting a regular payment.

If you are in receipt of benefits, you may be able to arrange for a small amount to be deducted from your benefit and paid directly to your landlord.

Housing benefit

Housing BenefitIf you are unemployed or on a low income, you may be able to claim housing benefit from your local council.

Housing benefit claims can take time to process, so you need to claim as soon as you think you may be entitled, because if you have more than two months’ or eight weeks’ rent arrears, and your landlord takes you to court, the court may not allow you to stay in your home.

The council should start paying your Housing Benefit within 14 days of getting your claim and supporting information. So, if your claim has been delayed, ask for an ‘interim payment’.

Make sure you provide the council with all the documents and information required to process your claim as quickly as you can to avoid delays.

It is your responsibility to keep paying your rent while your housing benefit claim is being processed.
You can also get help with your council tax by applying for council tax reduction.
Local Housing Allowance

Housing benefit is based on a local housing allowance (LHA) for the size of property suitable to the size of your household.

If you are a single person or a couple without children, you are only entitled to the allowance for one bedroom, even if you live in a larger home.

If you are a single person under 35, you can now only get the shared accommodation allowance. This means housing benefit may not pay your rent in full.

You can use this facility to calculate the number of bedrooms you are entitled to depending on the size of your household: bedroom calculator.

You can find the LHA for your area here: LHAs

The local housing allowance only applies to private tenants starting a new claim after April 7 2008. It does not apply to council tenants or to people living in hostels or B&Bs.


Discretionary Housing Payments

Home and moneyCouncils have a certain amount of money they can allocate to housing benefit claimants who are struggling to meet their rent, for example due to the benefit cap or the bedroom tax. A discretionary housing payment is a short-term payment from your council.

If you can’t afford to pay the difference between your rent and your housing benefit, you may be able to apply for a discretionary housing payment from the council.

Your local council may make a payment to help you avoid becoming homeless. In some situations, you could get payments to help with rent arrears.

Discretionary housing payments are not an entitlement, it’s up to the council to decide whether to make a payment or not and help with your rent is likely to be for a limited period of time, and there is a maximum amount that can be paid each week.

DHPs can also cover a tenancy deposit, rent in advance and removal expenses if you decide to move and you are getting housing benefit on your current home.

How to claim

You need to fill in a discretionary housing payment form from your local council. You may have to provide details of income and expenditure, bank statements, etc.

Provide any relevant information that may help your case such as:

  • any health issues or disabilities you may have;
  • details about extra travel costs you may have to pay;
  • if you are caring for a sick or disabled person;
  • if you are likely to become homeless due to rent arrears.
Always deal with priority debts first. If funds are limited, non-priority creditors can wait!
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If you are facing eviction due to rent or mortgage arrears, you need to take action now.

Contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444.